Following a year filled with scrutiny and testimonials, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has addressed his company’s advertising and data sharing policies with a 1,000-word op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. The Facts About Facebook, published in the evening of 24 January, defends Facebook’s reputation and states “we don’t sell people’s data, even though it’s often reported that we do".
Zuckerberg has faced extensive pushback following last year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which Facebook was accused of allowing the political consultancy access to the personal data of 87m Facebook users. Zuckerberg was also called to testify on behalf of Facebook’s data sharing policies in front of both the US Congress and European Parliament. In his article, Zuckerberg also defended Facebook’s relationship with advertisers, noting that if users want the site and its services to be free, they need to adjust to personalized ads.
“If we’re committed to serving everyone, then we need a service that is affordable to everyone. The best way to do that is to offer services for free, which ads enable us to do,” said Zuckerberg. Later on, he added: “There’s no question that we collect some information for ads—but that information is generally important for security and operating our services as well.”
“Selling people’s information to advertisers would be counter to our business interests, because it would reduce the unique value of our service to advertisers. We have a strong incentive to protect people’s information from being accessed by anyone else,” said Zuckerberg.
Zuckerberg continued to emphasize that Facebook users are in control of their privacy and opt-out settings and are able to disable the types of advertising or individual content they do not wish to see. He goes on to say that if these unwanted ads or content are still showing up on homepages, it is simply because his employees and artificial intelligence technology are not “perfect".
“The only reason bad content remains is because the people and artificial-intelligence systems we use to review it are not perfect—not because we have an incentive to ignore it. Our systems are still evolving and improving,” said Zuckerberg.
Last year, Facebook was fined $650,000 by the UK’s privacy watchdog after the social media giant failed to protect user data. Towards the end of his op-ed, Zuckerberg added that he believes more internet and data regulations would benefit everyone.
“Ultimately, I believe the most important principles around data are transparency, choice and control. We need to be clear about the ways we’re using information, and people need to have clear choices about how their information is used,” said Zuckerberg. “We believe regulation that codifies these principles across the internet would be good for everyone. It’s important to get this right, because there are clear benefits to this business model.